Economic Forecast Project Downsizes

No Longer Tri-County

The latest casualty of the University of California’s ubiquitous budget cuts is the UCSB Economic Forecast Project (EFP). The research unit, which had served the entire tri-county area with economic data and analysis, will now be honing its focus and resources in on only Santa Barbara County.

The restructuring comes along with the appointment of a new director, Peter Rupert, who came to UCSB in 2007 from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Under Rupert’s leadership, the project will no longer produce forecasts for San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties, as a response to changing economic circumstances. “I don’t know the exact figure on how much it saves, but it is not small,” Rupert said. “The EFP was not really financially viable toward the end. Gene Lucas, the executive vice-chancellor, is paying for the labor,” which consists, Rupert said, of himself, two grad students, and an undergraduate. “The EFP has to then pay for itself out of sponsorships, sales, etcetera.”

Rupert explained that although the EFP is still interested in partnering with S.L.O. and Ventura, it will have to be done in a different way. “It isn’t that we are cutting them off, rather we have to restructure how we provide them services,” he said.

Therefore, the project will still make itself available to organizations in the tri-county area on a consultant/contract basis. For clients in the Santa Barbara area, the reformatting will not lead to many changes: The operation will continue its forecast and presentation services as beforehand and maintain its economic database.

The reining in of the program will leave room for growth here at home. For example, data will be able to be gathered on a more frequent basis, and be more readily accessible to clients. “We will restructure the Web site, making it much easier to access the data,” said Rupert. “The data will be up to date as much as possible.”

In response to the changes at UCSB, the San Luis Obispo division of the Economic Forecast Project will be forming its own independent organization. The entire board of directors will be preserved and operations will continue much as they did before, simply not in association with the university. “It’s been a great association, but we understand we have to adjust to changing financial realities and this seems the best way to do it,” Maggie Cox, a member of the S.L.O. Board of Directors, commented.

It appears that the switch up will not faze the data gathering activity in San Luis Obispo. “Like anything, it just changes over time. I think it’s a natural progression,” Cox said. “We made the decision to basically continue and just transfer everything to ourselves. The main difference is that now we’ll be responsible for putting on the programs and maintaining information.”

Although not much has been put into action, as the decision from the university was handed down very recently, Cox said that like the UCSB project, S.L.O. is also planning on taking action to enhance the services provided to clients in that area. “We’re doing some things to add value to the program for the sponsors, such as quarterly updates,” Cox said. “We’re trying to change and update things as quickly as the economy does these days.”

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